Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This tree does not need to come down

Everyone on my street is horrified by the city of Buffalo's plans to take down this beautiful old silver maple. It is an easeway tree, so it technically belongs to the city, but the owners of the blue house behind it, Michael and Susan, have offered to pay for the trimming it certainly needs. Michael and Susan have also asked to look at the file that contains the report from the authority that sealed its fate—no luck either way.

When federal money comes into town—as it did after the October storm that damaged this and many other trees—people who have been civil servants and politicians too long might look at the largess not as an opportunity to do civic good, but as a gravy train with room on it for everyone who's done them a favor or can do them a favor. Hence, lots of trees are coming down, at least in part because it's a payday for lots of politically connected people.

This is a rant, mainly, but I also am inviting any readers who are willing to email Dan Kreuz, the Director of Public Works, to advocate for the tree in front of 35 North Pearl. Seriously. I'm circulating this all I can within local networks, of course, but what the heck, many of you are experts and maybe it would do good. dkreuz@city-buffalo.com Or, if you like, call him: 716-851-5636.

Even if not, it's a tree worth ranting about.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

And the winner is …

Without question and hands-down, the henryi species lily was the plant of the day. It was so flooded with "what's that one?" that if plants have psychologies, it would have been in serious identity crisis.

I also received many inquiries on a scaevola I picked up as a fill-in, and, so gratifying, lots and lots of compliments on the back sculpture, which in the past has creeped out a few gardeners. Not this year; I think the crowd is getting more … open. To challenging art, that is.

This year, I was out with the Ranters for much of the time and not in my garden. I loved seeing the other gardens. I hated not being in mine. This is always a dilemma, and one I have in common with many of the GW gardeners. But I was thrilled to see some of the very best gardens for the first time in over six years. Watch Garden Rant tomorrow for some truly awesome planting and pond shots.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Which will it be?

This is a brief post because in about 20 minutes, thousands of people will be coming through my yard and almost every one of them will have a burning question that only I can answer:

"What's that?"

Will it be about this?



I'll find out very shortly.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Last minute stuff

$52 is not bad at all; I've spent much more than that in the days leading up to Garden Walk. I think I must be distracted with the Ranters coming in and all. Oh, well, I am taking Susan to Lockwood's today, so I'll probably up the ante.

Most of the lilies will be bloomed out by early next week, but there are enough. The main thing though is that it's raining—and may tomorrow as well. Can't do anything about it. I stopped at an unfamiliar nursery that I had heard good things about and found a gorgeous anemone and a hellebore that will fill out the new shade planting, as well as a couple of amaranth relatives that will add some pizzazz to the front container. Allentown is hopping; there is a big performance festival going on everywhere, so I think it'll be a fun weekend, occasional rain notwithstanding.

Our street has been on TV during the weather broadcast: here's a link to it: North Pearl Gardens. And here's a link to an interview with fellow Ranter Amy Stewart that was on one of our local public radio stations. Finally, though I'll be putting up a bunch of pictures from this year's walk, we have hundreds up from last year on the Garden Walk website.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Garden Walk boot camp

Actually, I wasn't the one who used this phrase—it was another gardener I interviewed for the book. But the routine she described is not unlike what we all have to do before opening the gates for this event.

Weeding is huge. There can be nothing coming through the flagstones or in mulched areas between plants. Where the plants are tight, a few weeds aren't going to be too noticeable. Then the mulching. I try to find a fine, undyed mulch that's still pretty dark. Then the deadheading—usually just daylilies, lilies, and annuals need this at this time. The wisteria and the mock orange have to be trimmed back, and anything tall has to be staked, if necessary. Now we also have the pond to clean out; the wisteria leaves have a way of rotting in the corners of the stones. The edges of the beds are trimmed so there aren't too many plants overflowing their boundaries. And so visitors have a clean walkway.

Another thing we did this year is clear out a bed of pachysandra (the previous owners couldn't get enough of this plant) and replant it with shade perennials (above). I have high hopes for some double hellebores, gingers, and heuchera, some of which I picked up during a recent visit to Plant Delights in North Carolina. Of course these plants won't impress the flower junkies.

Gardeners have to weed, mulch, trim, and replant all the time. But it's actually kind of nice to have a target date like Garden Walk to aim for. Keeps us on our toes.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lilies that look down

As far as I can discover, turk's cap lilies can mean any lilies with flowers that hang from the stem in a pendulous fashion with reflexed petals, but the two lilies most commonly called turk's cap are martagon and superbum. (The word martagon is derived from a Turkish word meaning a certain type of turban.) I have been fascinated with these lilies for as long as I have been growing lilies. I find them more subtle and interesting, though they really need to be tall to be viewed properly. And then, oh dear, the staking and the corn-like stalks. All except for the martagons; they have handsome whorled foliage and never need staking. Mine (above) bloomed in June.

I have taken close-ups of all of these, because they're too lanky to photograph any other way.

The henryi (many cultivars have this name; I also have a henryi clematis) is one of my favorites, though I have it in a rather shady spot, and the stalks are completely hopeless without support. No matter; it still manages to look spectacular. I love the raised papillae. This is always the star come Garden Walk. Everyone asks me the name and where I got it, but most lose interest when I say mail order. The idea of mail ordering plants and bulbs is still foreign to many gardeners around here. They like to buy what they can see in person.

Then, there are hybrids that have the form. This is Scheherazade, from The Lily Garden, who create many of the lilies they sell. They also have a bunch of Asiatics that have the form. One of them, Red Velvet, is what I'm suggesting to firefly, to replace the poorly performing pumilum, but I also see they have Viva, which is brighter. It really looks just like pumilum (if one was to have one that actually grew). Scheherazade has a light spicy fragrance; it's subtle and very fresh. I can rely on these and the henryi to bloom from mid-July to early August.

All three of these lilies have my highest recommendation; they've been going strong in my garden for five years or better.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bulb lust—already!

Old House Gardens is making their catalog bigger and more alluring each year. Although I've already gotten catalogs from Brent and Becky's, John Scheepers, and McClure Zimmerman, this is the one that's caught my imagination. Usually I don't start fantasizing about bulbs until mid-August, when the garden begins to decline.

First, there were the daffodils. Now, I have no intention of planting any daffodils anywhere on my property ever again. Nonetheless, I'm wavering over such choice varieties as Irene Copeland and Inglescombe. They also have a bunch of tazettas they're offering to Southerners (Avalanche looked great), and I'm wondering if these can be forced much like the usual paperwhites. If so, then I might order some.

Then, the tulips. These I do order, but usually from less pricy companies. But why not try some of the wilder parrots: Estella Rjinveld, Amiral de Constinople? Nobody else has anything nearly as insane. So what if they'll only hang around a season or two.

I always turn to the lilies first. There is nothing particularly new here, but I do think I'll try some speciosum from Old House, as none I've bought elsewhere have had much of a scent. I should also replace the Black Beauties I tortured by ripping them out of the pond plot when they were pretty far along. They should come back, but who knows. One thing bugs me. Sometimes OHG does go too far in their catalog rhetoric. What's the difference between the Golden Splendors I have and their "rarest" Golden Sunburst? I didn't pay $8.50 each for mine, and that's about it. Otherwise, mine are just as "magnificent, "virtually indestructable," honey-gold," and "stately," as you can see above. So stop dissing my yellow trumpets, OHG.

They'll get my money all the same.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Lilies run amok

Cheryl and I thought we had it all figured out. Martagons and Asiatics in June, trumpets in early July, orienpets in mid-July, and orientals in later July, with speciosum rubum finishing up.

It's not working. I have Asiatics, trumpets, orienpets, and orientals all blooming at once, and so does Cheryl (shown at top). What's wrong with that? Well, we'd like to be able to enjoy lilies all summer, and I'm not totally sure that will happen. The rubrum in my yard are still small, thank goodness, and it looks like I will have some henryi and a few orientals for Garden Walk.

I would like everything to slow down. We had a very hot, sunny May and this is the result. As always, summer's going way too fast; the lilies provide graphic visual evidence.

Other images: yellow trumpets with ferns/hosta and Silk Road from the GWI garden.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The winners, so far

There are a couple ways I can assess which are the high-impact plants-of-the-season. Distance is one. After seven days away, some cultivars really start to show their stuff. So when I get back into town, ascertain that the house hasn't burned down and no one has broken in, the first thing I check is the garden. Many things remain pretty much the same: ferns, hosta, and groundcovers are basically required to stay green and uneaten. Lilies should show progress, but should not all bloom at once: I will need at least 7-10 multi-budded stalks for Garden Walk. Hydrangeas should be showing color. But this is the same progress I monitor every year; as always, for me, it is the annuals that provide the most excitement.

I mentioned the 3-foot-high red nicos in the last post, so won't go on about those. I was also gratified by a strong showing from the elephant ear and coleus. These are either El Brighto or Two-Tone. (They all have two tones!) I love coleus; they're so easy.

But I love many of the common annuals, especially petunias; these were grown by my neighbor and are happily interweaving themselves from container to container. Many of these have a lovely fragrance as well, which is something people often don't recognize as a benefit of petunias.

Far too late for Stuart's contest is this funky milkbox container, but what I'm really happy about are the colocasia obligingly growing out of it. They got a really late start.